Apr 23, 2012

Damsels in Distress

Is "very strange." (h/t to Whit Stillman through Carloyn Fariña as Audrey in Metropolitan.)  It is also whimsical, delightful, satirical, hilarious throughout, disjointed (a hot mess, really), fluffy, and sweet.  It is a hot mess because the director, Stillman, has chosen to do his usual Comedy of Manners as a revue such as the type his characters would do in college.  Thus, there is no real plot.  The scenes are blackout sketches, interspersed with dance routines, and the film ends with two (!) back-to-back production numbers.  Stillman has come full circle.  He has made a film version of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, which is the subject of Audrey and Tom's crucial early courting conversations in Metropolitan.  The "immorality of a group of young people putting on a play", indeed.

Honestly, the whole Whit Stillman is a Conservative topic of conversation has become very tiresome.  It is even slipping in to newspaper reviews these days.  I do not know who Stillman votes for, or if he votes at all, and I do not care.  But I do know that an artist obsessed with Jane Austen, as Stillman is, who pines for the old social conventions of deb parties, courting, letter writing, dances, dancing, etc, ... is probably going to have a pretty conservative world view.  (See what I did there?) Good for him.  Hey, I like Jane Austen, too, and I am not afraid to admit that this world could actually be improved with a return to some of the old social conventions.  And, I know for sure that manners these days is dead.

I do not agree with every part of Stillman's world view.  He is often a prude and we get yet another "Walk of Shame" in Damsels, but Stillman is also smart enough to ever so gently prod his male creations with satirical barbs that bring out their vulnerabilities and make them lovable and human and not simply stock bourgeois elitist right-wing assholes. 

It all comes back to those Jane Austen conversations in Metropolitan.  That is the whole core of Stillman's ouevre.  

Tom:  But the context of the novel and nearly everything Jane Austen wrote is near ridiculous from today's perspective.
 Audrey:  Has it ever occurred to you that today looked at from Jane Austen's perspective would look even worse? 

Fine, let the yahoos at NRO crow about Stillman as their Conservative.  Their antidote to the Liberal Gay Agenda Hollywood.  I do not give a shit.  They will not change my appreciation for Whit Stillman's films in the slightest.  No one today makes films like Stillman; so witty, thoughtful, talky, full of ideas.  And he makes Women's Pictures.  He is kind of like our modern day George Cukor.

(And this Okie Commie Pinko thinks we could all do with some lessons in manners right now, besides)


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